Ariel Russo’s parents at a street-naming Monday for their daughter on 97th street and Amsterdam Avenue.
Need any inspiration to push for safer streets? On Monday, March 10, which would have been Ariel Russo’s 5th birthday, her parents unveiled a street sign that will be placed at 97th street and Amsterdam Avenue to commemorate her death.
Russo was walking to school on June 4 with her grandmother when she was hit and killed by an SUV driven by 17-year-old Franklin Reyes, who faces a manslaughter charge. The crash occurred at 97th street and Amsterdam Avenue. That’s also just two blocks from where 9-year-old Cooper Stock was killed this year.
A lawsuit filed by Russo’s parents argues that several parties failed the little girl that day: Reyes for driving recklessly, police for engaging in a high-speed chase to catch Reyes on a busy avenue, and emergency personnel for failing to send an ambulance quickly — reports say it took four minutes for dispatchers to send the ambulance out.
A police pursuit was also cited in the death of film editor Karen Schmeer, a pedestrian mowed down near 90th street and Broadway in 2010. NYPD officers are generally expected to avoid car chases through busy streets.
It’s clear that street safety goes beyond making changes to crosswalks.
SW corner of W97th st is packed with students here to show their support for Ariel Russo's family #VisionZero #nyc pic.twitter.com/5lOCyNCh1F
— Mark D. Levine (@MarkLevineNYC) March 10, 2014
In 2009, students help put together a film about the dangers near the intersection where Russo was killed:
Photos via Councilman Mark Levine.
This is a sad, sad day. A lovely little life snuffed out. It should be remembered, however, that the cause of this child’s death was the illegal driver of the car that struck her. Yes, perhaps she would have survived if the response had been quicker, but the whole responsibility of Ariel’s death lies in the lap of that irresponsible young man who was in the process of breaking multitudinous of traffic laws while out for a joyride. I understand those who say police chases should be curtailed within certain curcmstances, but the people who are driving their cars in a potentially homicidal way must be brought to justice as soon as possible – otherwise, there will be another day, another street, another victim.
It’s important that we change the way we think about these tragedies. We need to stop thinking “oh, we all know this *one* was inevitable because X”.
Actually, no, we don’t know that’s true. And fatalism, as a general attitude, never made anything better.
It’s much more productive to think about what would could have been done to prevent –every single– incident. We just don’t know what changes would have prevented specific incidents after they occur, but we do know which changes prevent incidents *generally*.
If Amsterdam Avenue was narrower, would the driver have been able to weave through traffic and hit such dangerous speeds? If there was a parking protected bicycle lane, would the driver have crashed into that, as opposed to jumping the curb and hitting Ariel and her grandmother? If cars, in general, weren’t speeding on a regular basis on Amsterdam Avenue, would that have discouraged the dangerous driving that instigated the police chase in the first place?
The answer to all of these is: “Maybe — we don’t know, but they certainly wouldn’t have hurt”.
We need to change our attitudes. It’s a matter of life and death.
No, a protected bike lane wouldn’t have taken the impact in this case. The driver ran over the far corner. If anything, the floating lane would have further reduced visibility for pedestrians, and could have possibly gotten more people hurt.
Sorry – I can’t agree. This was caused by an irresponsible teenager who apparently has used the vehicle illegally a fair amount – not just up here, but in his Chelsea neighborhood as well. I do a drop off at 96th and Amsterdam every morning at approximately 8am, and I’ll tell you – there’s no speeding going on. The traffic is just too dense – and it’s a fertile fishing ground for the police who pull over cell phone users and seat belt non-users a plenty. Forget everything else – including fatalism -this is about personal responsibility.